Modupe Ogunniyi talks menopause with her mum

In a culture where conversations between generations don’t usually happen, I sat down with my mum to hear what her experience of menopause was like.

“Hey, Mummy.” “Hello my Princess.” My mum has just returned from Lisbon with my Dad, celebrating her 64th birthday and their 34th wedding anniversary. She’s smiling at me through my screen – we’re on a Zoom call, something she’s now become a pro at following months of online church. “So, what do you want to ask me?”

I grew up in a culture where children didn’t ask questions and parents never shared; curiosity is stifled and giving opinions is seen as disrespectful. I was around 27 when I decided to rebel against this and use the present to get to know my mother. Not just the authoritarian who told me to clean the house and to stand in the kitchen while she cooked, but the woman she was before she had me.

My mum smiles, “What else do you want to know?” She’s eager to tell me more – from her relationships before my dad, to her time as an entrepreneur, and today, she’s telling me about her journey through menopause.

I recently came across TENA’s #LastLonelyMenopause campaign and began to wonder if my mum felt lonely during hers. If she had, I wouldn’t have known as womanhood, periods, sex and the sorts, were topics my mother and I never discussed. To the extent that she found out I was pregnant by randomly asking one night if I had been having ‘fun’ with my boyfriend. So when I came across #LastLonelyMenopause, a campaign that aims to encourage more intergenerational conversations about the life stage, I thought: “Perfect – an opportunity to hear more about the woman she is and the journey that has brought her here.”

I wondered – did she experience loneliness like 43% of women do? Did she have anyone to speak being that her sisters live in Nigeria, and she is alone with my dad in England? 79% of women don’t tell a female relative when they realise they’re going through menopause – did my mother fall into this category?

I wondered if my mother had people to talk to, to share stories with, to call up when in annoyance her husband had closed all the windows and ignored her need for a breeze. “He didn’t understand what I was going through; even to now.” She says in jest, my dad in earshot.

So, in a bid to have a conversation we should be having, and normalise things that should be normal, we spoke about menopause…

When you started your period, you were still in Nigeria and living with your sisters. What was that like?

It was so terrible. All my siblings knew I had started because I was in so much pain, so it wasn’t a great experience. But they were helpful – buying me pads, telling me how to use them. Reminding me to be careful because now I could get pregnant.

That’s really sweet. When you started your menopause, then, did you reach out to them?

Because of the distance now, we don’t talk as frequently as we used to. But when I did ask them about their experience, they told me they experienced nothing! They didn’t even know what ‘menopause’ is, just that their periods stopped. I guess it’s not the same for everyone.

My mother is the youngest of three sisters, so I hoped she had them to seek advice from. Healthtalk.org shares that some women have no symptoms at all, whilst others have mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Here’s to hoping I take after my aunties in that regard.

Who else did you speak to then?

I asked the elderly people at work… and my GP.

Was it easy to speak with your colleagues?

Well, they all knew. When you’re at work and you have a hot flush, it’s very noticeable. Customers would even notice when I served them at the till and jokingly ask if I was having a hot flush.

Was that embarrassing for you?

Not at all, I didn’t take it personally.

About at home – do you think we (my brothers, dad and I) were supportive?

She laughs, a deadpan laugh.

Did you understand?! It would be nice if my husband was more understanding…

Would you say you felt lonely then?

No, because it’s just part of ageing and the process of being a woman. So there was no need to take it personally, or for it to upset me. It’s just my body doing what it needs to do.

Wherever you are in life, you just have to appreciate it. Because many people don’t get to this point in their lives, so I’m just grateful for where I am.

Have I mentioned how much I’ve always admired my mum’s fortitude, positivity and just-get-on-with it attitude?

What symptoms did you face and how was your mood?

You’ve got to know how to control your moods, or it’ll make your situation worse. You know, calm down and put a smile on your face. But those hot flushes – they make you want to scream sometimes; just got nuts! It’s not an excuse to be rude to people, though. I can remember one of my supervisors, she was always so rude and would then apologise and blame it on her hormones. If you’re at work, you just have to handle it in a professional way.

Did your mum speak to you about menopause?

No, no I never.

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We’re wrapping up our call now. “You know, my mother never spoke to me about these things. I think that’s why I never spoke to you about sex and other bits.” My mum shares with a tinge of sadness in her voice. “That’s okay, mum,” I said, “We’re changing that.”

For more menopause stories, advice and interviews, head to the Menopause Your Way Stories hub. To browse and shop a curated edit of menopause products, visit the Menopause Your Way page on QVC.

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We understand there’s a lot of information out there on the menopause. You can read through the NICE guidance on menopause management, as well as the NHS overview on the menopause.